The Wolf Pack built a large lead by halftime and cruised to victory in the second half.
“I wanted to see the defense,” Nevada’s first-year head coach David Carter said. “I thought we did that in the first half. We got in the passing lanes and caused some turnovers. I just wanted to see good intensity. I saw that in the first half...Overall, I was pretty pleased. We had good energy.”
Trailing by 27 at halftime, 54-27, Chico State had some fight left through the initial minutes of the second half. An 11-0 Wildcats run capped by a Nick Lonnegren 3-pointer actually trimmed Nevada’s lead to 15, 59-44, with 14:57 to go in the contest.
That’s as good as it got for the visiting Wildcats. The Wolf Pack responded with a 12-0 run over the next four and a half minutes. An Armon Johnson jumper concluded the outburst and forged Nevada into a 77-44 edge with just over 10 minutes left.
“It was great. We had a lot of energy to start the game,” Johnson said. “I think we came out a little sluggish in the second half, but we finished it out.”
Johnson scored 16 points to lead four Nevada players in double digits. Luke Babbitt added 14 points while Dario Hunt and Ray Kraemer each chipped in 11.
The Wolf Pack led by as much as 30 on two occasions — at 79-49 and 88-58.
The outcome was never really in doubt. Nevada jumped ahead early and did not let up. After Nevada got off to an 11-3 start, Chico State got a three-point play from Jay Flores to make it 11-6 less than four minutes into the game. It was all downhill from there for Chico State. By the 13:10 mark of the first half, Nevada had extended its edge to 23-8.
Kraemer’s 3-pointer from the corner gave the Wolf Pack a 54-25 advantage with 22 ticks remaining before halftime. It was Nevada’s biggest lead of the first 20 minutes.
“I have been here for three years and that’s what I do,” Kraemer said, alluding to his long-range shooting. “I came out shooting the ball. That’s what coach wants me to do and I do it well.
“It was really great to get out there with my team. It was great to see the new guys get out there and get some touches.”
Chico State hit two of its first six shots and it didn’t get any better. The Wildcats connected on only 5-of-22 through the rest of the first half. On the flip side, Nevada knocked down plenty of shots, 19-of-35, before the break.
Nevada out-rebounded Chico State 44-35 thanks in large part to Hunt’s 16-rebound effort. The Wolf Pack forced 22 Wildcat turnovers but gave away 18 of its own.
Nevada tips off the 2009-10 season with its debut Saturday night at home against Big Sky foe Montana State. The game is set to start at 7:05 p.m.
“It’s good to get this out of the way,” Babbitt said. “Now it’s for real. Every game matters.”